What is Fitzgerald's attitude towards Myrtle Wilson in The Great Gatsby?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Portrayed as a rather pretentious character, Myrtle Wilson is a person who is servile towards wealth, and she captures the excessive worship of materialism of the Jazz Age. Fitzgerald uses this character, who possesses no money of her own, to convey a message about how the desire for money and its false values destroy people.

Myrtle Wilson has no qualms about eschewing her moral obligations to her husband whenever she has the opportunity to pretend that she is a part of the wealthy class. When she is in the apartment in New York City partying with some of Tom Buchanan's friends, Myrtle virtually transforms herself, wearing expensive dresses and assuming a superior attitude. For instance, while she is sitting with Mrs. McKee in the apartment, she says with a condescending attitude in her artificial voice,

"My dear...I'm going to give you this dress as soon as I'm through with it. I've got to get a new one tomorrow. I'm going to make a list of all the things I've got to get. A massage and a wave and a collar for the dog...."

Later, when she has the temerity to be angry about Daisy and shout her name, Tom punches her in the face. Clearly, then, she will never be accepted as anything other than what she is, a lower-class mistress who can feed Tom's sense of superiority. But, Myrtle cannot return to her grey life in the Valley of Ashes without excitement and money. So, one night when she sees what she thinks is Tom in his car, she runs out in front of the car, and is struck not by Tom, but by Daisy, his wife, signifying the futility of striving for materialism and what happiness she thinks it can purchase. 

 

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The Great Gatsby

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